The looming threat of war has prompted nuclear plants across the country to increase security to the highest level.
Although nuclear power plants in Wisconsin have increased security to the highest level, a spokesman for local nuclear plants said a terrorist attack on plants would be unlikely and difficult.
On Sept. 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees nuclear plants, recommended all plants in the country increase security to the highest level, and all did immediately. The Gulf War was the last time nuclear plants raised their level of security to these heights.
Dave Molzahn, director of nuclear oversight at the Wisconsin Public Security Corporation, said local nuclear plants have added staff at all plants, and public access to plants has been restricted.
“In the past, visitors were allowed access to the parking lot, and then they would go through a security check, and then they would be escorted through the plant,” Molzahn said. “We no longer allow access that close to the plant.”
Despite national regulations on safety imposed by the NRC, each nuclear plant has additional security measures specific to the plant. Molzahn said a security increase shows plants have taken prudent steps to respond to credible threats if they were to arise.
Pam Alloway-Mueller, public-affairs officer at NRC, said although there have been no credible threats to nuclear plants, there have been additional steps taken to increase security.
“There definitely has been an increase in communication,” Alloway-Mueller said. “But the NRC is not like other businesses. We had security regulations prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.”
Beyond yearly safety assessments at plants, the NRC is also conducting a top-to-bottom safety review. The 60-day review began at the end of September.
Mark Savage, public affairs director at the Palisades plant, said nuclear power plants and reactors have been built and tested to withstand earthquakes, tornadoes and plane crashes.
“Nuclear plants and security at nuclear plants is implemented to thwart terrorist threats. Increased security measures are just to augment what is already being done,” said Savage. “That’s why the possibility of radiation release at a plant is minimal: every plant has a security plan, and plants practice those plans both in the plant and with local officials.”
Doug Day, communication manager at the Kewaunee/Point Beach nuclear plant said nuclear plants are secure, and it is important to remember they do not have a history of being the targets of terrorist attacks.
“The FBI considers nuclear plants hardened targets and historically, these are not attractive targets. If you look at facilities around the country, nuclear plants are probably the most secure,” Day said. “People should feel comfortable that we are taking all of the necessary security precautions; we look at security everyday. Safety and security has been our job from day one here and at all nuclear plants.”
Heightened security in plants will continue until further notice.
During the Gulf War era, the security increase at plants lasted more than two weeks after the war ended.